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Texas rallies poll workers to step up for November election

By Roz Brown

Texas News Service

AUSTIN, Texas — A record number of Texans are registered to vote in the November election, but the state needs more poll workers if everyone is going to safely cast their ballots on Election Day.
Many older retirees who normally volunteer to staff polling places will take a break this year out of health concerns because of the pandemic. Tina Tran, AARP Texas state director, said some counties with too few workers closed polling places during the July primary runoffs. Even if they don’t close, she said, a shortage of helping hands could mean longer lines on Nov. 3.
“We want to sound the alarm and make sure that anybody who has the time, has the ability and is so inclined knows how they can become a poll worker,” she said.
You must be 18 years old to be an election worker, and registered to vote in the county where you volunteer,” she said. “The only exception is for teenagers participating in the Student Election Clerk program, a program that allows high schoolers who are 16 or older to help with elections. In Texas, bilingual election clerks also are needed to serve as translators for voters who need assistance.
Duties performed by poll workers can include setting up equipment, putting signage in place and making sure new voters know how to use the voting machines. In 2020, Tran said, volunteers also will help keep in-person voting accessible and safe.
“You do things like ensure that people are socially distancing, that they have the PPE that they need to vote,” she said. “They’re checking identification – and just making sure that they walk voters through the process.”
Tran is walking the talk, and already has signed up through the initiative “Power the Polls” to help out on Nov 3.
“It’s very easy,” she said. “You fill out a short form, and you’ll get an application from your local election official.”
Even if you’re not a good fit, Tran said, encourage friends and family or people in your network to consider volunteering. If you’re interested, learn more online at PowerthePolls.org/AARP. AARP is collaborating with the Association of Young Americans and the New Leaders Council to encourage more volunteer participation on Election Day.